How Smart Technology Can Disrupt The Cycle Of Malnutrition: Learning From Angul In Odisha

By Ashita Munjral October 07, 2019

How Smart Technology Can Disrupt The Cycle Of Malnutrition: Learning From Angul In Odisha
How Smart Technology Can Disrupt The Cycle Of Malnutrition: Learning From Angul In Odisha.

India’s growth in technology usage has been phenomenal and has recently topped the charts for data usage per smartphone. Oddly enough, the country’s development indicators have not kept pace. India is home to one-third of the world's malnourished children. It is high time technology joins hands with development and becomes a profound part of the system. A system which will rest on real time data produced by actual ‘action’ on the ground should potentially never fail.

The Anganwadi centres under the Integrated Child Development Scheme (ICDS) provide a range of health and nutrition services to women and children. Despite ICDS presence for over 50 years, the gains are far and few. As per National Family Health Survey (NFHS-4), 2015–2016, 36 per cent of children under 5 years of age are underweight, 38 per cent are stunted and 21 per cent are wasted. And these are rather paltry improvements over the past decade.

Management of information

Decision making is an integral part of the functioning of any scheme especially of this size and order. It is most critical that managers across levels have the right information at the right time in the right format to bridge the gap between information, reaction and action. A robust management information systems (MIS) is the need of the hour. A management information system collects and processes data (information) and provides it to managers at all levels who use it for decision making, planning, programme implementation, and monitoring. MIS for development programmes is a tool to link the entire orchestra of elements who have come together to make the change. MIS is expected to supply appropriate and high quality information to its users.

Apart from decision making, MIS is very useful in accelerating the success of implementation by aiding:

•Accountability and transparency of data

•Real time information transfer

•Increasing demand by completing the loop by giving information back to community/user

•Grievance redressal

A good MIS should be user friendly and at the same time be technically well knit. It should be efficient to handle and process large amounts of data. The systems should be designed in a way where they can be easily adapted, sustained and multiplied across geographies. The visual outlay of processed data needs to be top-notch so that real time decisions can be taken.

Gaps in the system

ICDS-Common Application Software (CAS), launched in 2015 is the MIS for largest public health and nutrition programme in the world, ICDS, with 1.4million Anganwadi Centres serving at the grassroots level across India. The system successfully collates information across levels and represents for decision making. Apart from the pending challenges of internet, connectivity, training and skilling of workers to use the system to its best capacity, CAS lacks a grievance redressal system. The demand driven nature of services under ICDS which determine its success, needs a strong grievance redressal system to improve last mile delivery.

A Local innovation

There are multiple pilots running on ground trying to test out best models which can incorporate functions of the ICDS programme and track its performance. Angul Pusti Adhikar Abhiyan (APAA) – a movement by the community is working across Angul district in Odisha, to curb undernutrition by increasing access to ICDS services. APAA’s main approach is a grievance identification and redressal system, driven by smart technology. The aim is to collect individual and AWC level grievances and solve them in a short period of time.

The real-time system is designed to quickly address grievances by using community, AWW, LS, CDPO and timely escalation to District Collector. APAA believes enhancing accountability from the system, for the system and by the system will enable higher performance. APAA is demonstrating how information from the community is productively fed back to them and used strategically with service providers and policy makers. Use of MIS for the development programmes has indeed revolutionised the impact and efficiency of delivery. MIS has miles to go but it has become too big and far too important to fail!


Ashita Munjral works with IPE Global and develops data analytics for nutrition programmes